Hulu’s original television series PEN15 is a popular choice for middle schoolers in the late nineties. The series follows Anna (a middle school girl) and Maya (a boy). They have adventures as best friends, but also as outsiders with their peers.
Maya Erskine (Anna Konkle) and Anna Konkle (the actors who play Anna and Maya respectively), have drawn on their own experiences to create a world that is familiar to those who grew-up around the same time. They are so intertwined with their characters’ experiences that they even use their real middle school photos in the opening credits.
‘PEN15’ is a semi-fictional account of personal experiences for the show’s creators
PEN15 isn’t just a show about the awkward years for those who grew up in the nineties. It is also a mashup of personal experiences of the show’s creators. Konkle and Erskine wanted the show to be a celebration of the strange space between being a teenager and a kid by using a variety their own experiences as their characters.
Although the series takes place in middle school, Erskine, Konkle and their friendship grew fast after college. They found that they had shared middle school experiences and that was where the spark for the show was born.
The awkwardness of the show is heightened by the fact that Erskine & Konkle are in their thirties, while Konkle is thirteen. Most of their costars are closer to their actual age, with the exception of when obvious body doubles appear in romantic scenes. This sets them apart and shows how important their friendship is, even though the rest of the world may seem completely different.
Real Photos of Erskine and Konkle were used in the show’s opening
One of the most unique aspects of the show is the fact that Erskine, Konkle, and the stars are adults playing middle school kids. Fans will be able to see Erskine & Konkle in the photos that flash during the opening credits. They are around thirteen years old.
This was a crucial move by the creators of the show as they wanted to show the more mundane side of growing-up. And what better way than to let the whole world see their awkward childhood photos.
Some ‘PEN15’Storylines were derived directly from real experiences
Maya Erskine, Anna Konkle ‘Pen15’ | Erica Parise/Hulu
Erskine & Konkle wanted the show’s authenticity to be authentic so they took many of their middle school experiences and made them part of the show. Some of the stories that were included from real experiences include the episode where the girls want to imitate the Spice Girls, the episode that features Anna’s first kiss and her disappointment in the experience, and the episode that focused on the girls communicating through AIM, even down to the screennames that they used.
The show also uses people from Erskine and Konkle’s real life. The woman who plays Maya’s mom on the show is Erskine’s own mother. Erskine also had a role for her boyfriend Michael Angarano, who plays Greg Rosso, a drama teacher.
Konkle and Erskine are open to adding more real-life experiences and maybe even taking the show out of middle school to see how their friendship would work in different situations.
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